Langston Hughes |
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free.
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!
Sidney Lanier |
At midnight, death's and truth's unlocking time,
When far within the spirit's hearing rolls
The great soft rumble of the course of things --
A bulk of silence in a mask of sound, --
When darkness clears our vision that by day
Is sun-blind, and the soul's a ravening owl
For truth and flitteth here and there about
Low-lying woody tracts of time and oft
Is minded for to sit upon a bough,
Dry-dead and sharp, of some long-stricken tree
And muse in that gaunt place, -- 'twas then my heart,
Deep in the meditative dark, cried out:
"Ye companies of governor-spirits grave,
Bards, and old bringers-down of flaming news
From steep-wall'd heavens, holy malcontents,
Sweet seers, and stellar visionaries, all
That brood about the skies of poesy,
Full bright ye shine, insuperable stars;
Yet, if a man look hard upon you, none
With total lustre blazeth, no, not one
But hath some heinous freckle of the flesh
Upon his shining cheek, not one but winks
His ray, opaqued with intermittent mist
Of defect; yea, you masters all must ask
Some sweet forgiveness, which we leap to give,
We lovers of you, heavenly-glad to meet
Your largesse so with love, and interplight
Your geniuses with our mortalities.
Thus unto thee, O sweetest Shakespeare sole,
A hundred hurts a day I do forgive
('Tis little, but, enchantment! 'tis for thee):
Small curious quibble; Juliet's prurient pun
In the poor, pale face of Romeo's fancied death;
Cold rant of Richard; Henry's fustian roar
Which frights away that sleep he invocates;
Wronged Valentine's unnatural haste to yield;
Too-silly shifts of maids that mask as men
In faint disguises that could ne'er disguise --
Viola, Julia, Portia, Rosalind;
Fatigues most drear, and needless overtax
Of speech obscure that had as lief be plain;
Last I forgive (with more delight, because
'Tis more to do) the labored-lewd discourse
That e'en thy young invention's youngest heir
Besmirched the world with.
Father Homer, thee,
Thee also I forgive thy sandy wastes
Of prose and catalogue, thy drear harangues
That tease the patience of the centuries,
Thy sleazy scrap of story, -- but a rogue's
Rape of a light-o'-love, -- too soiled a patch
To broider with the gods.
Thou dear and very strong one, I forgive
Thy year-worn cloak, thine iron stringencies
That were but dandy upside-down, thy words
Of truth that, mildlier spoke, had mainlier wrought.
So, Buddha, beautiful! I pardon thee
That all the All thou hadst for needy man
Was Nothing, and thy Best of being was
But not to be.
Worn Dante, I forgive
The implacable hates that in thy horrid hells
Or burn or freeze thy fellows, never loosed
By death, nor time, nor love.
And I forgive
Thee, Milton, those thy comic-dreadful wars
Where, armed with gross and inconclusive steel,
Immortals smite immortals mortalwise
And fill all heaven with folly.
Brave Aeschylus, thee I forgive, for that
Thine eye, by bare bright justice basilisked,
Turned not, nor ever learned to look where Love
So, unto thee, Lucretius mine
(For oh, what heart hath loved thee like to this
That's now complaining?), freely I forgive
Thy logic poor, thine error rich, thine earth
Whose graves eat souls and all.
Yea, all you hearts
Of beauty, and sweet righteous lovers large:
Aurelius fine, oft superfine; mild Saint
A Kempis, overmild; Epictetus,
Whiles low in thought, still with old slavery tinct;
Rapt Behmen, rapt too far; high Swedenborg,
O'ertoppling; Langley, that with but a touch
Of art hadst sung Piers Plowman to the top
Of English songs, whereof 'tis dearest, now,
And most adorable; Caedmon, in the morn
A-calling angels with the cow-herd's call
That late brought up the cattle; Emerson,
Most wise, that yet, in finding Wisdom, lost
Thy Self, sometimes; tense Keats, with angels' nerves
Where men's were better; Tennyson, largest voice
Since Milton, yet some register of wit
Wanting; -- all, all, I pardon, ere 'tis asked,
Your more or less, your little mole that marks
You brother and your kinship seals to man.
But Thee, but Thee, O sovereign Seer of time,
But Thee, O poets' Poet, Wisdom's Tongue,
But Thee, O man's best Man, O love's best Love,
O perfect life in perfect labor writ,
O all men's Comrade, Servant, King, or Priest, --
What `if' or `yet', what mole, what flaw, what lapse,
What least defect or shadow of defect,
What rumor, tattled by an enemy,
Of inference loose, what lack of grace
Even in torture's grasp, or sleep's, or death's, --
Oh, what amiss may I forgive in Thee,
Jesus, good Paragon, thou Crystal Christ?"
Vladimir Mayakovsky |
It can’t be.
You too, beloved?
Why? What for?
Darling, look -
I brought flowers,
I never took
silver spoons from your drawer!
I staggered down five flights of stairs.
The street eddied round me.
It was gusty.
The wind stung my cheeks.
Horn mounted horn lustfully.
Above the capital’s madness
I raised my face,
stern as the faces of ancient icons.
on your body as on a death-bed, its days
my heart ended.
You did not sully your hands with brute murder.
you let drop calmly:
“He’s in bed.
There’s fruit and wine
On the bedstand’s palm.
You only existed in my inflamed brain.
Stop this foolish comedy
and take notice:
I’m ripping off
my toy armour,
the greatest of all Don Quixotes!
Weighed down by the cross,
Christ stopped for a moment,
Watching him, the mob
“Get movin’, you clod!”
Spit upon him who begs for a rest
on his day of days,
harry and curse him.
To the army of zealots, doomed to do good,
man shows no mercy!
That does it!
I swear by my pagan strength -
gimme a girl,
and I won’t waste my feelings on her.
I'll rape her
and spear her heart with a gibe
An eye for an eye!
A thousand times over reap of revenge the crops'
howl into every ear:
“The earth is a convict, hear,
his head half shaved by the sun!”
An eye for an eye!
bury me -
I’ll dig myself out,
the knives of my teeth by stone — no wonder!-
A snarling dog, under
the plank-beds of barracks I’ll crawl,
sneaking out to bite feet that smell
of sweat and of market stalls!
You'll leap from bed in the night’s early hours.
“Moo!” I’ll roar.
Over my neck,
a yoke-savaged sore,
tornados of flies
I'm a white bull over the earth towering!
Into an elk I’ll turn,
my horns-branches entangled in wires,
my eyes red with blood.
Above the world,
a beast brought to bay,
I'll stand tirelessly.
Man can’t escape!
Filthy and humble,
a prayer mumbling,
on cold stone he lies.
What I’ll do is paint
on the royal gates,
over God’s own
the face of Razin.
Dry up, rivers, stop him from quenching his thirst! Scorn him!
Don’t waste your rays, sun! Glare!
Let thousands of my disciples be born
to trumpet anathemas on the squares!
And when at last there comes,
stepping onto the peaks of the ages,
the last of their days,
in the black souls of anarchists and killers
I, a gory vision, will blaze!
The sky’s mouth stretches out more and more,
it drinks up the night
sip by sip, thirstily.
The windows send off a glow.
Through the panes heat pours.
The sun, viscous, streams down onto the sleeping city.
O sacred vengeance!
Lead me again
above the dust without
and up the steps of my poetic lines.
This heart of mine,
full to the brim,
in a confession
I will pour out.
Men of the future!
Who are you?
I must know.
Here am I,
all bruises and aches,
To you of my great soul I bequeath
Carolyn Kizer |
Arms and the girl I sing - O rare
arms that are braceleted and white and bare
arms that were lovely Helen's, in whose name
Greek slaughtered Trojan.
Helen was to blame.
Scape-nanny call her; wars for turf
and profit don't sound glamorous enough.
Mythologize your women! None escape.
Europe was named from an act of bestial rape:
Eponymous girl on bull-back, he intent
on scattering sperm across a continent.
Old Zeus refused to take the rap.
It's not his name in big print on the map.
But let's go back to the beginning
when sinners didn't know that they were sinning.
He, one rib short: she lived to rue it
when Adam said to God, "She made me do it.
Eve learned that learning was a dangerous thing
for her: no end of trouble would it bring.
An educated woman is a danger.
Lock up your mate! Keep a submissive stranger
like Darby's Joan, content with church and Kinder,
not like that sainted Joan, burnt to a cinder.
Whether we wield a scepter or a mop
It's clear you fear that we may get on top.
And if we do -I say it without animus-
It's not from you we learned to be magnaminous.
Barry Tebb |
Dear Eddie we’ve not met
Except upon the written page
And at your age the wonder
Is that you write at all
When so many have gone under
Or been split asunder by narcissistic humours
Blunder following blunder
Barker and Graham, godfathering my verse
Bearing me cloud-handed to Haworth moor
From my chained metropolitan moorings,
O hyaline March morning with Leeds
At its thrusting best, the thirsty beasts
Of night quenched as the furnaces
Of Hunslet where Hudswell Clarke’s locos
Rust in their skeletal sheds, rails skewed
To graveyards platforms and now instead
Skyscrapers circle the city, cranes, aeroplanes,
Electric trains but even they cannot hinder
Branches bursting with semen
Seraphic cloud sanctuaries shunting
Us homeward to the beckoning moors.
Leeds voices soothe the turbulence
‘Ey’ ‘sithee’ and ‘love’, lastingly lilt
From cradle to grave, from backstreet
On the social, our son, beat his way
To Eton, Balliol, to Calcatta’s Shantiniketan
And all the way back to a locked ward.
While I in the meantime fondly fiddled
With rhyme and unreason, publishing pamphlets
And Leeds Poetry Weekly while under the bane
Of his tragic illness, poet and mother,
You were driven from pillar to post
By the taunting yobbery of your family
And the crass insensitivity of wild therapy
To the smoking dark of despair,
Locked in your flat in the Abbey Road
With seven cats and poetry.
O stop and strop your bladed darkness
On the rock of ages while plangent tollings
Mock your cradled rockings, knock by knock.
In these doom-laden days
You are steady as a pilot nursing tired ships homeward
Through churning seas
Where grey gulls scream
Forlornly and for ever.
I am the red-neck,
Shifting sheer rock
To rape the ore of poetry’s plunder
Or bulldozing trees to glean mines of silver
While you sail serenely onward
Ever the diplomat’s daughter
Toujours de la politesse.
Daisy, dearest of all, safest
And kindest, watcher and warner
Of chaotic corners looming
Round poetry’s boomerang bends
I owe you most a letter
While you are here beside me
Patient as a miller waiting on wind
To drive the great sails
When the muse takes over
I am snatched from order and duty
Blowing routine into a riot of going
And coming, blind, backwards, tip
Over ****, sea waves crashing in suburbia,
Saturnalia in Sutton, headlines of mad poet
Striding naked over moors, roaring
"I am here I am waiting".
Niagaras of letters on pink sheets
In sheaths of silver envelopes
I open your missives
Like undressing a girl in my teens
Undoing the flap like a recalcitrant
Bra strap, the letters stiff as nipples
While I stroke the creviced folds
Of amber and mauve and lick
As I stick stamps like the ********
Of a reluctant virgin, urgent for
Defloration and the pulse of ******.
Dylan Thomas |
O make me a mask and a wall to shut from your spies
Of the sharp, enamelled eyes and the spectacled claws
Rape and rebellion in the nurseries of my face,
Gag of dumbstruck tree to block from bare enemies
The bayonet tongue in this undefended prayerpiece,
The present mouth, and the sweetly blown trumpet of lies,
Shaped in old armour and oak the countenance of a dunce
To shield the glistening brain and blunt the examiners,
And a tear-stained widower grief drooped from the lashes
To veil belladonna and let the dry eyes perceive
Others betray the lamenting lies of their losses
By the curve of the nude mouth or the laugh up the sleeve.
Rudyard Kipling |
This is the State above the Law.
The State exists for the State alone.
[This is a gland at the back of the jaw,
And an answering lump by the collar-bone.
Some die shouting in gas or fire;
Some die silent, by shell and shot.
Some die desperate, caught on the wire -
Some die suddenly.
This will not.
"Regis suprema voluntas Lex"
[It will follow the regular course of--throats.
Some die pinned by the broken decks,
Some die sobbing between the boats.
Some die eloquent, pressed to death
By the sliding trench as their friends can hear
Some die wholly in half a breath.
Some--give trouble for half a year.
"There is neither Evil nor Good in life
Except as the needs of the State ordain.
[Since it is rather too late for the knife,
All we can do is to mask the pain.
Some die saintly in faith and hope--
One died thus in a prison-yard--
Some die broken by rape or the rope;
Some die easily.
This dies hard.
"I will dash to pieces who bar my way.
Woe to the traitor! Woe to the weak! "
[Let him write what he wishes to say.
It tires him out if he tries to speak.
Some die quietly.
In loud self-pity.
Bad morale through the cots around .
This is a type that is better dead.
"The war was forced on me by my foes.
All that I sought was the right to live.
[Don't be afraid of a triple dose;
The pain will neutralize all we give.
Here are the needles.
See that he dies
While the effects of the drug endure.
What is the question he asks with his eyes?--
Yes, All-Highest, to God, be sure.
Thomas Hardy |
In days when men had joy of war,
A God of Battles sped each mortal jar;
The peoples pledged him heart and hand,
From Israel's land to isles afar.
His crimson form, with clang and chime,
Flashed on each murk and murderous meeting-time,
And kings invoked, for rape and raid,
His fearsome aid in rune and rhyme.
On bruise and blood-hole, scar and seam,
On blade and bolt, he flung his fulgid beam:
His haloes rayed the very gore,
And corpses wore his glory-gleam.
Often an early King or Queen,
And storied hero onward, knew his sheen;
'Twas glimpsed by Wolfe, by Ney anon,
And Nelson on his blue demesne.
But new light spread.
That god's gold nimb
And blazon have waned dimmer and more dim;
Even his flushed form begins to fade,
Till but a shade is left of him.
That modern meditation broke
His spell, that penmen's pleadings dealt a stroke,
Say some; and some that crimes too dire
Did much to mire his crimson cloak.
Yea, seeds of crescive sympathy
Were sown by those more excellent than he,
Long known, though long contemned till then -
The gods of men in amity.
Souls have grown seers, and thought out-brings
The mournful many-sidedness of things
With foes as friends, enfeebling ires
And fury-fires by gaingivings!
He scarce impassions champions now;
They do and dare, but tensely--pale of brow;
And would they fain uplift the arm
Of that faint form they know not how.
Yet wars arise, though zest grows cold;
Wherefore, at whiles, as 'twere in ancient mould
He looms, bepatched with paint and lath;
But never hath he seemed the old!
Let men rejoice, let men deplore.
The lurid Deity of heretofore
Succumbs to one of saner nod;
The Battle-god is god no more.
Emanuel Xavier |
“Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars;
see that ye not be troubles;
all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet”
I escape the horrors of war
with a towel and a room
to Palestinian and Jewish boys
as a ‘piece’ to the Middle East
when I should be concerned with the untimely deaths
of dark-skinned babies
and the brutal murders
of light-skinned fathers
I’ve been more consumed with how to make
the cover of local *** rags
than how to open the minds
of angry little boys
trotting loaded guns
Helpless in finding words
that will stop the blood
from spilling like secrets into soil
where great prophets are buried
I return to the same spaces
where I once dealt drugs
a celebrated author gliding past velvet ropes
while my club kid friends are mostly dead
from an overdose or HIV-related symptoms
Marilyn wears the crown of thorns
while 4 out of the 5 weapons used to kill Columbine students
had been sold by the same police force
that came to their rescue
Not all terrorists have features too foreign
to be recognized in the mirror
Our mistakes are our responsibility
The skyline outside my window
is the only thing that has changed
Men still rape women
and blame them for their weaknesses
Children are still molested
by the perversion of Catholic guilt
My ex-boyfriend still takes comfort
in the other white powder-
the one used solely to destroy himself
and those around him
Not the one used to ignite and create carnage
or mailbox fear
It is said when skin is cut,
and then pressed together, it seals
but what about acid-burned skulls
engraved with the word ‘******’,
a foot bone with flesh
and other crushed body parts
It was a gay priest that read last rites
to firefighters as towers collapsed
It was a gay pilot that crashed a plane
into Pennsylvania fields
It was a gay couple that was responsible
for the tribute of light
in memory of the fallen
Taliban leaders would bury them
to their necks
and tumble walls to crush their heads
Catholic leaders simply condemn them
having offered nothing but sin
***** blood is just rosaries scattered on tile
Heroes do not always get heaven
We all have wings .
some of us just don’t know why
Rudyard Kipling |
I ate my fill of a whale that died
And stranded after a month at sea.
There is a pain in my inside.
Why have the Gods afflicted me?
Ow! I am purged till I am a wraith!
Wow! I am sick till I cannot see!
What is the sense of Religion and Faith :
Look how the Gods have afflicted me!
How can the skin of rat or mouse hold
Anything more than a harmless flea?.
The burning plague has taken my household.
Why have my Gods afflicted me?
All my kith and kin are deceased,
Though they were as good as good could be,
I will out and batter the family priest,
Because my Gods have afflicted me!
My privy and well drain into each other
After the custom of Christendie.
Fevers and fluxes are wasting my mother.
Why has the Lord afflicted me?
The Saints are helpless for all I offer--
So are the clergy I used to fee.
Henceforward I keep my cash in my coffer,
Because the Lord has afflicted me.
I run eight hundred hens to the acre
They die by dozens mysteriously.
I am more than doubtful concerning my Maker,
Why has the Lord afflicted me?
What a return for all my endeavour--
Not to mention the L.
I am an atheist now and for ever,
Because this God has afflicted me!
Money spent on an Army or Fleet
Is homicidal lunacy.
My son has been killed in the Mons retreat,
Why is the Lord afflicting me?
Why are murder, pillage and arson
And rape allowed by the Deity?
I will write to the Times, deriding our parson
Because my God has afflicted me.
We had a kettle: we let it leak:
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week.
The bottom is out of the Universe!
This was none of the good Lord's pleasure,
For the Spirit He breathed in Man is free;
But what comes after is measure for measure,
And not a God that afflicteth thee.
As was the sowing so the reaping
Is now and evermore shall be.
Thou art delivered to thine own keeping.
Only Thyself hath afflicted thee!